Whether or not anabolic steroids are legal is dependent on the country you live. Some countries have much stricter laws controlling prescription drugs such as steroids while other countries have completely legalized steroids.
As far as the US is concerned anabolic steroids are a Schedule III Controlled Substance as part of the Controlled Substances Act. This means that possession of anabolic steroids without a prescription is a federal crime. You face up to one year in prison for the first offense. Distributing steroids or possessing them with the intent to distribute them is more serious and carries a potential ten-year prison sentence for the first offense.
Anabolic steroids are also a controlled substance in Canada. They are a Schedule IV substance in Canada meaning that it is illegal to buy or sell them without a prescription. Just possessing them is not illegal, however; this is something seen in Schedule I, II, and III drugs.
Anabolic steroids are also illegal without a prescription in other countries including Australia, Brazil, and Portugal. In the United Kingdom, they are classed as a Class C Controlled Drug. However, they are completely legal in some countries including Mexico and Thailand.
The history of anabolic steroids in the United States stretches back to the late 80s. This is when Congress first considered putting them under the Controlled Substances Act after Ben Johnson’s controversial victory at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
As part of the deliberations, many organizations spoke against making steroids a controlled substance. The American Medical Association (AMA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) all opposed the move, saying that using steroids does not lead to addiction and dependence; something that a drug must do be to part of the Controlled Substance Act.
Despite these arguments anabolic steroids were made a Schedule III controlled substance with the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990.
This act also introduced tighter controls and harsher penalties for offenses such as distributing anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.
Shortly after the act was introduced many pharmaceutical companies stopped manufacturing steroids altogether in the US including Ciba, Searle, Syntex and several others.
Anabolic steroids are defined in the Controlled Substances Act as a drug or hormonal substance that is chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (except for estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) used to promote muscle growth.
The Act received an amendment in 2004 when the Anabolic Steroid Act of 2004 added prohormones to the list of controlled substances. This act came into effect on January 20th, 2005.
Anabolic steroids are a class C drug in the United Kingdom. They are classified because of their potential for illegal abuse. Being a Class C drug puts them in the same category as benzodiazepines. Anabolic steroids are a part of Schedule 4, which is split into two parts. Part 1 of Schedule 4 contains most benzodiazepines while anabolic and androgenic steroids are found in part 2.
Part 1 drugs have all the export and import controlled placed on them, and possession without a prescription is illegal. There are no laws regarding possession if you are taking it for medicinal purposes. Part 2 drugs can be imported and exported with a Home Office license unless the substance is a medical product and is designed for a person to self-administer it.
Status in Sports
Every major sporting body bans anabolic steroids including the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Major League Baseball (MLB), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Olympics, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and the National Football League (NFL).
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) keeps a list of performance enhancing substances that these sporting bodies use. This list includes all anabolic agents such as anabolic steroids and precursors and all hormone and hormone related substances.
Spain has passed their own anti-doping law and created a national anti-doping agency. Italy also passed a back in 2000 where penalties of up to three years in prison could be handed down to an athlete who tests positive for banned substances.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the International Convention Against Doping in Sport in 2006 that encourages Russia to cooperate with WADA. Several other countries have their own legislation that bans the use of performance enhancing substances in sports such as Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Sweden.